Night Flyers

I use strips of different color LEDs, with 60 LEDs per meter, 3 LEDs per section, 20 sections to the meter.  They are available in many colors; red, green, white, blue, yellow, purple, pink, etc. The blue LEDs are the brightest of these strips of LEDs.  You can also buy red/green/blue LED strips that have all three colors together and can be turned on/off via separate power inputs on the strips. There are still 60 LEDs per meter on these strips, and that works out to 1 red, 1 green, and 1 blue LED per section, still with 20 sections to the meter.  These can be purchased on many websites, including Hobby King and eBay.

The super bright white LED spotlights, rated at 1 watt each, require a heatsink to avoid overheating.  I purchased the LEDs and heatsinks on eBay.

The three home-made LED sequencers that are detailed below make use of a 12C508 PIC.  The source code for each project is included, and the pinouts for the PIC are listed in the comments in the source code for each project.  See my PIC development page for links to the necessary PIC compiler and PIC programmer software packages, both of which are is free. All you will need to buy is an inexpensive PIC programmer interface which connects to a serial port on your computer, and of course the PIC, transistors, wiring, resistors, and capacitors that make up each project.

 

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UFO - first version - The first version of  the night flyer UFO had fixed LEDs, and could be seen to several hundred feet at night.  The blue LEDs are the brightest, and they light up the ground easily.  The UFO created a circle of light on the ground.  I then added 50 more LEDs from my retired Slow Stick night flyer, so the UFO had 150 LEDs, with the main section of lights in three concentric circles. When I later reworked the LEDs on this UFO to use strips and LED spotlights, I moved all the individual LEDs onto home-made strips of three each, and installed those inside BlueWing #2, which is detailed below.

I was inspired by this thread at RCGroups for my UFO flying disk:
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=762714

The bright LEDs were bought from http://abctronics.com/  I have used these LEDs:

Red 3mm:  2700 millicandles, 20 ma average current, 30 ma max current, forward voltage = 1.95 volts
Blue 5mm:  4500 millicandles, 20 ma average current, 30 ma max current, forward voltage = 3.15 volts
White 5mm:  9000 millicandles, 20 ma average current, 30 ma max current, forward voltage = 3.15 volts
Green 5mm:  10000 millicandles, 20 ma average current, 30 ma max current, forward voltage = 3.10 volts

If you want to do something similar, buy your LEDs, take the forward voltage for each LED, the average operating current of 20 ma, and plug them in with your source voltage to the LED calculator here:   http://www.rc-cam.com/led_info.htm    That will give you the resistor you need to solder in series with each LED.








Video Demo
at YouTube

UFO - current version
-  I later modified the UFO, adding three separate LED sections (#1- #3 below). The lights on this version are dazzling and can be seen from several thousand feet.   All power comes from the main 3S 2650 mah lipo battery pack. 

The source code for the UFO LED sequencer is here.

#1 - Fixed white, red, and green LEDs that cover the leading edges and wingtips. This set is always on.
#2 - Two circular sections of alternating blue and white LEDs that rotate at a variable speed controlled via an RC channel from the ground. These 20 banks of LEDs are connected in pairs on the left and right of the bottom of the UFO, with ten sections on each side.
#3 - Three banks of two super bright LEDs each (rated at 1 watt each), for a total of six super bright LEDS, individually commanded via a second RC channel from the ground.

A home made on-board sequencer control LED sets #2 and #3. It is shown in the third photo on the left, and is made up (from left to right in the photo) of a 12C508 PIC running custom code, a decade counter, and two inverters.  Across the top and bottom of the board are ten 2222 transistors, three TIP122 transistors, and various resistors and caps.  The PIC has two PWM inputs, and four digital outputs that drive the decade counter and transistors.

- PWM input 1: timing input: receives 1 - 2 ms PWM signal that determines flashing rate
- PWM input 2: four positions:
< 1.25 ms = all three banks of super bright LEDs off
1.25 - 1.5 ms = flashing type 1, one group at a time - sequence super bright LED group 1 --> 2 --> 3 --> 1 --> 2 --> 3 ...
1.5 - 1.75 ms = flashing type 2, all groups together - all groups on --> all groups off --> all groups on --> all groups off ...
> 1.75 ms = all three banks of super bright LEDs on

Input 2 is controlled by two switches on radio:
Switch 1 = 3 position = 1 ms, 1.5 ms, 2 ms
Switch 2 = 2 positions = mix in .1 ms above or below 1.5 ms (-> 1.4 or 1.6 ms) for flashing type

Digital output 1: single pulse at flashing rate that goes to decade counter
Digital outputs 2 - 4: on/off for each transistor for each superbright LED bank (2 LEDs each)





Video Demo
at YouTube
Night Trainer -  This plane is covered with several separate LED sections (#1 - #3 below).  LED power comes from an independent 3S 2200 mah lipo battery pack.  The motor and RC electronics are powered by a separate 5S 3000 - 5000mah lipo battery pack.

The source code for both the Night Trainer and Bird of Time LED sequencers is here.

#1 - Fixed blue, white, red, and green LEDs that fill the inside of the wing, and cover portions of the fuselage. This set is turned on/off via a switch on fuselage.
#2 - There are over five meters of red/green/blue LED strips, 60 LEDS/meter, with a commercially pre-programmed controller with flashing and sequencing built in, controlled via a hand-held IR remote control.  This set was bought on ebay, and the sequencer was removed from its large case and potted to insulate it for installation in the fuselage.
#3 - Five banks of super bright LEDS, four on each wing side leading edge, plus one LED + extra white LEDS on fuselage center surrounding motor, for a total of nine super bright LEDs.  These five banks are controlled via a RC channel from the ground.

A home-made sequencer with variable speed, on/off, and alternating sequences controls LED set #3. It is made up of a 12C508 PIC running custom code, five TIP120 transistors, and various resistors and caps.  The PIC has one PWM input, and five digital outputs that drive the transistors.
- PWM input:
< 1.10 ms = all on
1.10 - 1.50 ms = cycle back and forth, one off, speed depends on 40 ms range from 1.1 - 1.5 ms
1.50 - 1.90 ms = cycle back and forth, one on, speed depends on 40 ms range from 1.5 - 1.9 ms
> 1.90 ms = all off
- Digital outputs 1 - 5: on/off for each transistor for each super bright LED bank
 








Bird Of Time - This plane has two separate sections of LEDs.  All power comes from the main 3S 4000 mah lipo battery pack.

The source code for both the Night Trainer and Bird of Time LED sequencers is here.

LED section #1 - The wings are filled with over five meters of blue LEDS, with green & red LEDS at the wing tips.  The fuselage is covered with two meters of red LEDs.  This set is on all the time.
LED section #2 - Five banks of super bright LEDS, five inside each wing side leading edge, for a total of ten super bright LEDs.  These five banks are controlled via a RC channel from the ground.

A home-made sequencer with variable speed, on/off, and alternating sequences controls LED set #2.  It is made up of a 12C508 PIC running custom code, five TIP3055 transistors, and various resistors and caps.  The PIC has one PWM input, and five digital outputs that drive the transistors.
- PWM input:
< 1.10 ms = all on
1.10 - 1.50 ms = cycle back and forth, one off, speed depends on 40 ms range from 1.1 - 1.5 ms
1.50 - 1.90 ms = cycle back and forth, one on, speed depends on 40 ms range from 1.5 - 1.9 ms
> 1.90 ms = all off
- Digital outputs 1 - 5: on/off for each transistor for each super bright LED bank

Night Wing & Camera Wing - Both of these 2 meter wings are covered with several hundred LEDs. All power comes from the main 3S 2200 mah lipo battery pack.  The camera wing also has a mount in the nose to carry a HD movie camera; there is no downlink for the video.  The photos below are time exposures of the Night Wing flying at my RC field, taken with my Nikon D80.

 

               

Bluewing #2 - The inside of this 2 meter flying wing is filled with several hundred blue, white, green, red LEDs that make the plane glow at night from the diffused inner lighting. All the internal lighting is made from commercial strips of LEDs and all the individual LEDs I had purchased over the years, installed onto home-made strips of three each.  Put inside the wing, they provide lots of light and have no impact on aerodynamics - never throw away this kind of stuff as it can always be reworked and useful. The wingtips also have red and green LEDs as wingtip markers.  All power comes from the main 3S 2650 mah lipo battery pack.
Phoenix - The fuselage and wings are filled with hundreds of blue, white, yellow, red, and green LEDs that are switched via a simple on/off button on the side of the fuselage.  All power comes from the main 3S 2200 mah lipo battery pack.
     Foamie IIx 3D - I built three copies of this plane; 100% to plan, 100% to plan and foldable, 86% to plan.

I built one of my Foame IIx 3D airplanes with the specific idea that it would be used for travel, and for night flying.  I visited northern Sweden in February 2011 on business. I have been flying my old Foame IIx 3D plane for several years and thought it would make a good plane to take on trips if I could build a foldable version. I had finished it the night before I left, with modifications from the normal Foame IIx 3D airplane so I could fold it up, pack it, and re-assemble it with just clear tape. It has white, red, and green LED strips from HobbyKing. It worked very well and I flew it every day in northern Sweden for two weeks with no problems.  The temperature ranged from -25C to 0C when I flew it. At the colder temperatures the servos slowed down after a few minutes in the cold. On our third night in Sweden, four of us got off work and drove about 90 km to get to the Arctic Circle. We all got our pictures at the Arctic Circle sign, and I wanted to say I had flown RC at the Arctic Circle.   Here is the video of that cold (-21C) night flying experience.  All power comes from the main 3S 800 mah lipo battery pack.

Additional links:

LEDs:  http://www.kpsec.freeuk.com/components/led.htm

Flash LED project with 555 timer:  http://www.kpsec.freeuk.com/projects/flashl.htm